Staff, Volunteers, and Consultants
Ana Eloísa Soto-Canino
Director/Chief Instructor/Chief Safety Officer
Ana began her life in studio at age 9, to become an award-winning, classically-trained visual artist, as well as a studio and field instructor. She has served as officer, as well as judge, for various community-based arts events in Middlesex County, NJ. Ana has taught thousands of practitioners through the apprentice studio she founded in 1998, the Academy of Art of Highland Park, where the staff teach the deep craft practice of over 30 media and numerous art forms. Her young protégés routinely garner topmost awards in local, regional, and national competitions, and her teen Portfolio Prep students place in the nation’s top art colleges, schools of architecture, science and engineering, and liberal arts campuses. Many of her adult students have gone on to exhibit their works and realize many of their aspirations as artists.
Besides her long-term tenure at various apprentice studios and art schools in Puerto Rico, the USA and Italy, Ana has toured and taught in Puerto Rico, China and Botswana, while cultivating her interest in comparative cultural studies. Ana holds a Bachelor’s of Science from Princeton University in Psychology (1985), with a concentration in Visual Perception, and a transcript thick with art history studies. She holds a Masters degree from the New School in Urban Policy and Planning (1991), and incomplete PhD studies at the New School in Political Theory. Having served as an award-winning news journalist in NJ, Ana now writes on inquiry, exploration, creativity and artistic practice for the AAHP, in addition to directing all business and studio operations. Ana enjoys sport flying, swimming, fishing, dance, travel, and map collecting.
Assistant Director/Senior Instructor/Studio and Staff Manager
Aaron Balavram was born in Sayreville, New Jersey, but grew up in the great town of Highland Park, where he has spent most of his life. Having always had an adoration for the arts and sciences, he found a second home at the Academy of Art of Highland Park, where he learned to explore the craft of fine art as a science. Aaron began his training at the Academy at the age of fourteen, and by the following year, he was eager to expand his knowledge by aiding in the teaching of his peers, which he has continued to do for the past eleven years. He is now a senior instructor, as well as the head of the sculpture department and “The Sky’s the Limit” program for Artists with special needs
Aaron has also branched out to serve the community with other art programs, such as “Bridges”, an Edison Township program for “at risk” youths, and is also heading the Veterans Housing Project donor-wall mural through the Highland Park Reform Church. He has also served as an after-school art teacher at Montesory Netivot, as well as the middle school and high school art teacher for the Pre-Collegiate Learning Center in East Brunswick.
Aaron has also been working with Ana on developing the Aii Field Studio, organizing field trips and outings for all you wonderful artists that just can’t wait to get outside! He’s always been somewhat of an outdoorsman himself, having been going camping and hiking with his friends and family for longer than he can remember.
Just know that when you give him a smile, you’re making his day!
Shannon was born under the name of Kim, Mi-Ryung in Inchon, South Korea. After living in Seoul with her foster family for three months, she was then adopted by her current family in New Jersey, USA. A former resident of Highland Park, Shannon attended the AAHP studio for many consecutive years — years that amounted to most of her life by the time she graduated from high school. Shannon, in fact, was one of our first students to complete the entire AAHP curriculum. As she grew into her teens, she also served the AAHP as a wonderful Teacher Assistant and as a highly committed member of the Teen Studio Management Crew. Shannon later graduated as a Fine Arts Major from The College of New Jersey. Prior to joining the AAHP’s Senior Pedagogical Staff, Shannon also worked as a Gallery Assistant at The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ, as an Intern at the Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, NJ.
Shannon’s art work features a variety of media and practices, such as screen printing, mixed media on paper, oil painting, and fiber arts. Through her works, Shannon expresses her point of view as a transracial adoptee, and explores self-portraiture, self-perception, morphing identity, and various other ways of seeing the self. As a highly committed studio instructor here at the AAHP, Shannon has great rapport with students of all ages.
AAHP’s In-House Designer
LE started taking classes at the AAHP in 2003 as a child, became a teen Coach in 2008, and now serves as a Senior Instructor whenever back in town. She is a graduate of University of Delaware, where she studied Visual Communication. LE has grown up at the AAHP as her second home for the past 12 years. As the AAHP’s professional designer, she has produced the AAHP’s storefront sign, the ArtMobile vehicle wrap, and the studio’s 2014-2015 T-shirt line. She also co-designed the new AAHP logo and has a backlog of further design jobs for the Academy. LE loves pasta and volleyball. Her de rigueur fashion style is “Comfortable-n-Lazy”, to quote her verbatim. She watches way too many TV shows and still manages to keep all the stories straight.
Inaya S. Singh
Friday Work Crew/Brush Surgeon
Inaya, 17, of North Brunswick, is one of two Brush Surgeons at the AAHP. Our Brush Surgeons are responsible for the maintenance, repair and housing of all our sensitive tools and instruments. The Brush Surgeons receive training in-house, and come to develop finer “sense-abilities” in the handling specialized tools and instrumentation. They do this by managing our studio’s Brush Hospital (where we send tools for repair and conditioning) and the Rehab Center (where tools are staged to return to service). Inaya has proven herself as the responsible, quick and versatile learner that the job of Brush Surgeon demands.
Inaya also plays lacrosse for her school, and percussion for her school band. She lists cheese ravioli as her “fav” food. When asked for her “fav” school subject, she replied, “The most bearable is English”. She is also a dancer, currently practicing south Indian Bharatanatyam, and we can hardly wait for her recital next year. She is also an active practitioner here at the studio, where she is progressing through our Drawing syllabus, and very well at that.
The Work Crew
The Work Crew is the behind-the-scenes team that keeps the studio in working order. They come in on Friday when the studio is closed and toil like fairytale elves. Yet instead of working to the tinkling of silver bells, they play everything from old Beatles vinyl, to the newest indie hits. They do everything from vacuuming, cleaning, scrubbing, brush repair, furniture assembly and art supply shopping to washing all the rags the studio rag monster consumes. Everyone works together to keep this ship afloat. Without the spirited and almost heroic toil of our daring work crew team we wouldn’t have clean brushes, sharp pencils, or neatly organized works of art. The work crew is not currently accepting new applicants. The Work Crew includes manager David Learn, and crew members Shane P., Ben K., Inaya S., Karine L., and Eowyn L.
In loving memory of Jauria
Official Studio Mascot
Live model and Officer-in-Charge-of-Morale. Yes, he made us laugh! His tail was the finest brush in the house. He was wickedly smart, the smartest dog you’ll ever meet. Jau-Jau was happy to stay locked in his kennel at student’s request.